How do you help teenagers make choices? Without wagging a finger at them?
My preferred way is to involve them in a little drama about a situation they can recognise as relevant. Normally, I elicit good examples from the audience, but in this case - not being in front of the audience - I have to guess at what might work.
I always aim to give teenagers the tools they need. In this example, it's the GROW Model.
The video contains a clear demonstration of Self-Coaching, using the GROW Cards that my coach colleagues and I created.
If you would like the GROW Cards, you can download them from here for free,
As she walked along the corridor to the classroom she could feel her shoulders rising to meet her ears. Her whole body was tensing up. From her stomach arose a whirlwind of fear. It reached past her heart and grabbed hold of her mind. Her body began to twist into a knot. Her face screwed into a scowl.
“Why does it always have to be this way with this class? They are so…”, she lamented.
“Wait a minute. What kind of energy are you bringing with you into the classroom?” interrupted her inner coach.
“What do you look like?”
“Well, it’s because…”
“What kind of face is that you have on?”
“What do you expect?”
“What do you expect? If you go into the room, feeling like that, looking like that? What’s the first thing they will see?”
“What’s the first thing they will do?”
“And what do you want them to do? Really? Deep down?”
“I want them to want to learn!”
“What can you do, to make that more possible?”
She stopped, straightened up.
She carried out her self-calming ritual. She took a deep breath. Then two more. Fear settled down. She sent fear back down to her belly and took control of her mind.
“This is going to be a wonderful lesson,” she told herself. Then said it out loud again, for extra measure as she opened the classroom door, “Wonderful lesson…”
I was a new teacher, at my first job at a Secondary School. I was enthusiastic about Mathematics, and wanted to pass on my enthusiasm to the schoolchildren there.
One day, whilst writing on the blackboard I noticed that one of the taller boys was having a bundle of fun attracting the attention of the class, distracting them from my teaching of the Noble Art of Maths.
Some of the teenage students were rather tall for their age. Several boys were taller than I was. Along with their age and size came an awakening interest in the opposite sex. In this co-educational school the classes were a mix of boys and girls, which gave plenty of opportunities for the boys to show off to the girls; and for the girls to show off to the boys.
Realising - from the sounds of laughter at the back of the room - that I had lost the attention of the class I felt that I needed to refocus on teaching them some social skills.
I paid more attention to what the boy at the back of the room was doing. Somehow - and I still don't know how - he had managed to take off his underpants without removing his trousers AND had put his underpants back on again, over his trousers, like Superman.
I could have flipped out, shouted and perhaps demanded that the boy leave the room, apologise etc. etc. However I was so fascinated by his feat of dexterity that I had to ask, not "Why?" but, "How?".
Standing beside this boy asking how, we shared the attention of the class. Here was an opportunity to discuss useful social skills. In this case the skill of knowing the difference between private and public behaviour, appropriate behaviour for a classroom, and how to get the attention you need without taking your pants off. A skill that could be useful for all the boys and girls in the room.
I asked the boy to stand up and adjust his clothing in front of the class, which probably felt slightly embarrassing for him since the kind of attention he was getting now was not as sexy as before.
Being a young teacher, I still felt the need to play the role of teacher, to assert my authority in the classroom and to "tell him off", so that everyone would know that I am in charge of the classroom. Yet it felt daft looking up at this giant of a boy to say "Don't do it again"... so I grabbed the nearest chair and stood on it in order to be taller, then in an over-dramatised way, said the words "Don't .. do that ... again!"
"No Sir", he said, smiling and accepting the admonishment in good spirits, along with the lesson in social skills. I sent him out of the room to adjust his clothing.
Some people ask about the difference between coaching and counselling.
I'm not sure I could describe in a list what one does that the other does not. But I did have the opportunity of being in a school counsellor's room and coaching one of his students.
The story below comes from "The Coach in the Classroom", by Martin Richards..
When the boy came into the counsellor, Jason's room, Riccardo immediately saw he was an ordinary boy, except for the fact that his eyes darted everywhere. He moved his head much like a bird, and seemed to be looking for something, or looking out for something, Riccardo wasn’t sure which.
The boy radiated a lot of energy and it seemed as though the room became both brighter and hotter as he walked in. The boy looked Riccardo up and down, querying why he was there, but not actually asking the question.
Jason introduced them and portrayed Riccardo as a coach, a life coach. With this opening, Riccardo aimed to connect with the boy.
Riccardo faced the boy and said, "I work with people who are in the process of making a decision, who want it to be the best decision for their lives. I don’t give advice; I simply listen and ask questions, and then listen again."
The boy looked around the room in silence.
Riccardo continued, "Is it okay with you that I’m here today? Jason asked me to come in and give some support. We both want the best for you, but it will be you who decides what the ‘best’ is, and who can help you, or not. Is it okay that I am a coach here for you today?"
The boy shrugged and mumbled, "It’s okay I suppose."
During his attempt to connect with him, Riccardo tried to maintain eye contact, but the boy looked away most of the time and scanned the room instead.
"But is he paying attention?" asked the voice in Riccardo’s head. "Yes, he is listening; he is using his eyes, not his ears."
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Not every teacher is ready and willing to be coached - even if their headteacher thinks so.
Taking on the assignment to coach such a teacher brings me into the space between a Rock and a Hard Place. The question arises, "Why am I doing this? For whom am I coaching?".
"Am I coaching to prove to the people in the Education System (teachers, headteachers, administrators...) that coaching is effective? Am I coaching to prove to myself that I am a good coach? Do I simply wish to prove to this teacher that coaching is good stuff? Am I coaching to support this teacher in his professional development?"
The answer is, "Yes, all of that."
And that affects how the coaching is carried out as you can read in this story of Riccardo Midwinter's adventures as the coach in the classroom. He's not perfect, faultless or entirely neutral in what he does. He is on a mission to bring coaching to the education world. Oops, he has an agenda, and coaches should not have an agenda.
The following text is from "The Coach in the Classroom", written by Martin Richards.
Riccardo chose to first get in touch with Max, one of the teachers on the list.
He found Max, a middle-aged man, in one of the staff rooms and approached him.
"Hi, I'm Riccardo, the coach on assignment here. Your name is on my list."
Max rose from his chair, looking like a benevolent bear disturbed from a slumber. His fine, straight, short hair was the colour of varnished wood and was combed in an impractical, artistic style across his eyes. He had droopy blue eyes, and a thick moustache which hung above his defensive smile. Max’s attire was businesslike and flattering to his rounded chest and belly.
Max began, "I'm sorry, I don't have time for coaching," and he waved his stubby-fingered hands as if to dismiss Riccardo.
Riccardo was taken aback, and silent. He did not move.
Max continued, "In fact, I was volunteered for coaching by the headteacher and I don’t really see the point. I have been teaching for seventeen years and I'm already a good teacher."
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Planning and goal-setting is an area that teachers recognise well. However, we are talking about coaching, not teaching and the situation is a bit different.
The biggest difference is ... whose plan? Whose goals?
The skill of planning and goal-setting is about developing and maintaining an effective coaching plan with the student. Sounds familiar so far.
The coach does these things together with the student
When to use planning and goal-setting?
There are opportunities for planning and goal-setting when planning the coaching sessions and at the start of each coaching session too.
"What do you want to acheive or experience in these coaching sessions? / this coaching session?"
Similarly, there are opportunities for planning and goal-setting when planning the term's lessons and at the start of each lesson too.
"What do you want to learn or do during these lessons? / this lesson?". Previuously, this has been expressed from the teacher's internal point of view, "What do I want them to learn and do during the lessons?".
Whose goals? Whose planning?
I have noticed that goals that are externally defined often result in low levels of motivation; and even may cause resentment and resistance in the client. This occurs even when the goals are well described and well understood. It happens most often when the goals are not well accepted, or not connected sufficiently to the client's personal life.
I have also noticed that goals that are internally defined by the client result in higher levels of motivation and a different kind of resistance.
As coaching becomes more frequently used in schools and colleges we shall see more work done in balancing these two sets of goals. The personal, student goals and the community, educational goals. There need be no conflict between these sets of goals. There will be a need to build bridges between them.
Identifying resistance as external or internal
When you are coaching a student you will notice, probably through a change in their tone of voice, or body language, that there is some resistance to what is coming up for them.
I have found that this issue is one of whose goals are being worked with.
When the goal is not wholly accepted by the student there is resistance, or resentment.
Resistance is to internal goals. The body language often displays Fear.
Resentment is to external goals. The body language often displays Disgust.
How can you pick up on the difference between resistance and resentment?
For me this is a question of calibration. Noticing the changes in a particular student's tone of voice and body language when I know in advance that the goal is external will help me notice when it happens later.
Misuse of coaching as a persuasion tool
There is a risk that coaching will be tried as a means of persuasion. Although some visible success may be achieved in a coaching session it is common that the client's values system will bring them back to the previous behaviour.
It is only when the client truly wishes to make a change, that is in line with their values, that they can overcome the fear that has been holding them back from making desired changes.
Coaching requires maturity, readiness for responsibility, and willingess to change yourself
Balancing External and Internal goals
External goals are those that are set by the student's Community (ie their family, society and school) and Internal goals are those that come from the student's own perception of their Life Mission.
A method that a coach can use to illuminate the student's situation regarding their external and internal goals and finding a balance between them, that also enables the coach to remain neutral, is as follows.
On a scale 1-10 ...
There are teachers who give up teaching, and yet continue teaching.
Can they be re-inspired?
Here, I tell the story of a coaching conversation with an exhausted teacher.
It did not go well. Or maybe it went as well as it could? You tell me.
This story first appeared in "The Coach in the Classroom", available on Amazon
Alan came into the room without knocking. He was in his late fifties, his balding head was bowed, his back was stooped. He looked like a lost and wandering spirit. His narrow black eyes were two spheres of night-black marble. The straggling remains of his unkempt black
hair was shoulder-length. He wore a pale grey jumper and old blue jeans. He carried a worn briefcase under one arm and he dragged the soles of his shoes across the floor as he walked across to Riccardo.
Alan presented himself in a flat voice, "Hello"
"Hi, I'm Riccardo, your coach," replied Riccardo slightly too gleefully, getting up to shake Alan's hand.
"Yes, so what do we do?"
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An exhausted teacher, an ineffective assistant and a student who's looking for a fight.
A recipe for disaster?
Or an opportunity for learning?
The story below comes from "The Coach in the Classroom", by Martin Richards.
Riccardo relaxed into the smooth rhythm of the lesson and was about to start the third page of notes when a loud disturbance of voices at the back of the room caught his attention.
Turning to the source of the disturbance, Riccardo saw the assistant and his young student were having what might be described as a wrestling match. The student was apparently trying to hit the assistant, and the assistant was defending himself by holding onto the student’s wrists.
The students nearest the disturbance turned to watch. Riccardo looked for Jayne. Where was she? She was attending to another student elsewhere in the room and had her back to the disturbance. Riccardo was certain, if he could hear the disturbance, then she too could hear what was going on behind her.
After a minute, Jayne spun round and walked determinedly over to this wrestling pair. Riccardo’s eyes and ears widened, excited to hear what she was about to say and to see what she was going to do in order to resolve this tense and escalating situation.
"A teachable moment," said the voice. "A coachable moment," replied Riccardo.
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It's not often that you get to see two teachers teaching the same class.
It's not a scientific experiment, it's how the school is dealing with a particular situation. But it does give some scope for observing the effect that two teachers have on the same class.
The following story comes from "The Coach in the Classroom", by Martin Richards.
During this observation phase, Riccardo noticed something that was happening with this class. The students were at times unruly, challenging, and occasionally rude; and at other times collaborative, playful, and supportive of each other.
The observation tool revealed that the different behaviours were connected to which teacher was at the front of the room. It was tempting to come to the conclusion that one teacher was good and the other was bad, but he knew that would be counter-productive.
For Anna, the following occurred: every time a student interrupted, Anna started over reading from the beginning of the sentence once more, sounding a little bit peeved. The students played the game of "winding up the teacher," and Anna would be successfully wound up.
For Belle, the following occurred: whenever a student interrupted, she smiled and continued reading in a calm voice, not allowing the interruption to disturb the flow of her story. Students responded by playing the game of "helping each other keep up with the reading."
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I'd like to begin by asking a question, "Whose responsibility is it that a student passes the course that you are teaching?"
Naturally, as teacher you want as many students as possible to pass, and get the highest grades possible. You know from personal experience that their grades can make a difference to their lives. Certainly the student's parents will probably expect you to do everything that you can to get their son/daughter through the course, and get the best grade possible. Some parents may be more actively involved.
Now that puts you in a tough situation. Not only you but the dozens of parents connected to your class want you to do your best, and those high expectations put a lot of pressure on you to prepare the best lessons, be clear about the goals and expectations, motivate the students to learn, plus follow up and grade their work fairly and accurately. Phew! That's a job!
Luckily coaching will make this job very much easier for you because "Managing Progress and Accountability" is all about empowering students to make the right choices for their lives, by themselves!
According to the ICF description what you need to do is hold attention on what is important for the student, and to leave responsibility with them to take action.
That might sound like leaving all the work up to the student, however there's a lot you can do, as coach, to increase the chances that the student takes actions that they will be proud of.
Here are some of the things you can do:
Clearly request the student to take actions that will move them toward their stated goals. "What are you going to do to get closer to your goal?"
That implies that you know what the student's goals are. Sometimes students hide behind the phrase "I don't know" when you ask them about their goals. This can be because they are afraid of stating a goal, since it will give you the means to make clear requests of them for action. In such cases it's vital that you unearth the student's goals before you put more effort into managing progress and/or accountability. There are plenty of activities and exercises for doing this. It should be pointed out that the student's choice of not having goals is in fact a choice. They have made the choice of allowing other people to set goals for them. They have opened themselves to the risk of being forced into a life they don't want to live, or a life that leaves them ultimately disappointed. It's a choice, and as such should be respected. And as a coach your job is to make it possible for the student to become enlightened to the character of the goal that they have passively set. Ask them to think about people who made a similar choice of having no goals, and to consider asking these people how satisfied they are with their lives. Often just imagining this process will be enough to encourage studnets to set some sort of goals... and that's enough.
Other things that you can do as coach are:
Demonstrate follow through by asking the student about those actions that they committed to during the previous session(s). Just be curious and ask "What did you do? What did you learn? What did you achieve? What did you experience...?"
Acknowledge the student for what they have done, not done, learned or become aware of since the previous coaching session(s). Sincerely say "That's great", where appropriate, honestly say "You made an effort there - and the results were smaller than you expected or hoped"...
Effectively prepare, organize and review with student the information that comes up in the sessions. This can be a case of writing things down in a more convenient way, so that the student has something to put in their pocket or diary, for example. Ideally you should get the student to do this themselves, and they may need to experience the benefits before they take the initiative to organise themselves in this way. Role model!
Keep the student on track between sessions by holding attention on the coaching plan and outcomes, agreed-upon courses of action, and topics for future session(s). That's a question of checking with the written plan from time to time, and making checklists of topics and research material, and checking that progress is being made.
Focus on the coaching plan but is also open to adjusting behaviors and actions based on the coaching process and shifts in direction during sessions. Naturally the course of the coaching session is less than a straight line. It's more like riding a skateboard!
Be able to move back and forth between the big picture of where the student is heading, setting a context for what is being discussed and where the student wishes to go. This simply means that you move between the macro and micro perspectives and make sure they are included in a balanced way across the coaching sessions.
Promote the student's self-discipline and hold them accountable for what they say they are going to do, for the results of an intended action, or for a specific plan with related time frames. Just let them know that you care that they do / don't do what they said they would do / not do. Saying "I notice that you smell of cigarettes, and remind you that your goal is to quit", is more coach-like than "You said you would stop smoking!"
Develop the student's ability to make decisions, address key concerns, and develop themself (to get feedback, to determine priorities and set the pace of learning, to reflect on and learn from experiences). Asking "How well does the current pace of learning match your needs?" will encourage the student to realise that they do have some influence on the pace.
Where necessary, positively confront the student with the fact that they did not take agreed-upon actions. By repeatedly reminding the student that they always have a choice in what they do, you will guide them away from giving endless excuses, and empower them to make better choices in the future.
This skill is one that teachers have reported as being their most developed coaching skill. There are however ways for you to further develop this vital skill. One particular direction that usually needs consideration is how to share the design process with the students.
Part of the ICF description of this skill reads "The ability to create, together with the students, opportunities for ongoing learning, during coaching and in other life situations, and for taking new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed-upon coaching results"
One way of generating ideas for actions is to brainstorm. And in this case it is the student or students who are expected to generate the ideas. As coach you need only set up the activity and later assist in filtering the ideas for those actions that will most likely enable the student to "demonstrate, practice and deepen their new learning".
You could us questions such as, "How will you discover what is needed for this part of the syllabus?", "How can you increase your chances at getting this work done in time", "In what ways could you practice this kind of equation?". These questions encourage the students to start their process of brainstorming. If this is the first time that you have brainstormed there may be an expectation that the teacher provide the answers as well as the questions. That is the teacher's role. It is not the coach's role. As coach, you don't need to provide any answers.
In order to provide the first-time brainstormers with support for early success you can show them an "old" brainstorm from a "previous group". By that I mean the student can use and further develop a brainstorm session that is written on paper, for example in the form of a Mind Map. Of course, you can create the first Mind Map yourself as an example.
Letting good ideas go
When designing the actions starting from an ocean of potential ideas you will want to help the student to "focus on and systematically explore specific concerns and opportunities that are central to the agreed-upon coaching goals". That means you can ignore ideas that might take the students too far from their goals. There may well turn up an absolutely fascinating idea... that risks taking you on a long journey to someting other than the agreed goals. Let that idea go.
What's the best path
As coach you will need to engage the student to "explore alternative ideas and solutions, to evaluate the options, and to make related decisions that support them in their learning". Basically this means asking questions like "What else?","How else?", and "Which path seems to be the best?". If the student is new to this coaching process they may expect - or even ask out loud - that you tell them What else, How else, and What's the best path. Resisting all temptation to give them what they are asking for makes it possible for them to make a choice, and learn from it.
Which brings us to another aspect of designing actions. Life does not come with an Answer Key, until perhaps the very end. As coach you will be promoting "active experimentation and self-discovery, where the student takes what has been discussed and learned during sessions and applies it immediately afterwards in their life situation." To this end you might want to introduce some Trial and Learning activities that allow the students to realise that mistakes are simply learning opportunities. A session that includes questions like "What if you do / What if you don't?" can bring the experimentation to a safe level, where the consequences of a proposed action can be discussed rather than acted upon."
Assumptions and Perspectives
When discussing "What if... " you will probably encounter the student's assumptions and perspectives; which gives you the opportunity of respectfully challenging them.
Assumptions and perspectives are key to how we experience Life. By changing our assumptions and perspectives we can experience Life in another way.
This process is likely to provoke evidence of resistance as well as new ideas and potentially uncovering new possibilities for action. Most of the discovery will happen outside the coaching session - when the student has space in which to set aside their assumptions and perspectives and look at new ones.
Evidence of resistance is an indication that alternatives are being tried and tested. You are unlikely to easily upset deeply held assumptions and perspectives by asking these simple questions. You are offering the student the chance to look at what can be changed - not commanding them to change. That's useful to remember if you should come into a heated discussion with the student's parents at a later date.
Whenever possible, pause and celebrate any and all successes and proofs of their developing capabilities, and indications for their future growth. As a teacher you will of course celebrate high test scores, good results and good behaviour. As coach you will do the same for whatever changes are coming about. A student who turns up for a test rather than staying at home and avoiding it is to be celebrated for taking a step in the right direction!
The Coach's Experience
Sometimes you will want to bring your experience to the benefit of your student. There is a way to do this whilst still wearing your Coach Hat. Firstly, check that your point of view is aligned with student's goals and, without attachment, invite them to consider them. You could say "I have heard that ... ", "If it's useful to you, by all means use it, otherwise just forget it."
Do it Now
Once the actions have been designed there may still remain some reluctance or fear regarding actually doing it. Give whatever support is needed for them to do it now since the reluctance and fears are likely to grow when the coaching session is over.
I once encouraged a client to make a phonecall (one that they needed to make, and dreaded making); and I suggested that I go and fix a cup of coffee in the meantime. This created a sense of expectation that the call would be made within the next few minutes. When I returned the call was over. The client was equally delighted by the fact that they had made the call, as they were by the positive results of the call. This made the next calls much easier for the client.
The previous example is also a description of how to encourage, stretch and challenge the student; and at the same time maintain a comfortable pace of learning.
I am sure that you, as teacher are already capable of doing that.
Part of the ICF description of this skill reads "the ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information, and to make interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results".
The information comes mostly from the student's vocal language and body language when they are talking about what they are doing, thinking and feeling compared with what they want to do, what they want to think and what they want to feel. It also comes to a lesser degree from the coach's thoughts and feelings that come up during the session. As coach you need to be aware of the difference between your own thoughts and feelings, and those that you pick up from the student that you are coaching. The thoughts and feelings that are used in the coaching process are the ones that come from the student. That's easier said than done. It takes practice to separate the one from the other. One way to become better at separating the two is to ask yourself "Whose thoughts and feelings are these?"
I will use a general example of creating awareness to show what it means to make interpretations
Imagine that you are coaching a student who has described a particular goal that they want to achieve. The student has also described what they have been doing during the past two weeks and seems to be stuck in an undesirable behaviour, a behaviour that's not working well for them. What they are currently doing is not moving them towards their desired goal. It's a common situation.
What can you say that could get this student moving towards their goal again?
The temptation for the coach is to think up a desirable behaviour and encourage or persuade the student to change to that behaviour. The temptation for the student is to rely on the coach to come up with a behaviour that will solve the problem and get them closer to the goal. This is unhealthy coaching.
One way for the coach to work in such common situations is to create awareness for the student so that they can come up with the behaviour change that they want to try out.
I think this is the most challenging and enjoyable part of coaching since this is the time when you will often see the necessary change taking form, and the student taking responsibility for changing their own actions and results. This is true empowerment.
Here are some questions that you could ask. Notice that NONE of these questions ask for action. They ask the student to become aware of what's going on in their minds and in their emotions. The questions ask the students to look for alternatives, and look at their situation and behaviour in a different way.
Further in the ICF description you can read that when you are in the coach role you:
Go beyond what is said in assessing student’s concerns, not getting hooked by the student’s description. Which means that you will listen, and not remain in the student's description of "what is" or "what has happened". You will be moving them towards learning from "what is" and "what has happened", so that they are better equipped to move forwards
Invoke inquiry for greater understanding, awareness and clarity. Which means that you ask the student to reflect on what they can do to learn from what they have experienced.
Identify for the student their underlying concerns, typical and fixed ways of perceiving
themselves and the world, differences between the facts and the interpretation, disparities between their thoughts, feelings and action. And that's a nice way to say "challenge them!", and do it respectfully. A great question to ask when a student tells you how the world works based on their experience so far is "What if that is true, and what if it isn't true?"
Help the students discover for themselves the new thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, emotions, moods etc. that strengthen their ability to take action and achieve what is important to them. You can move towards this with questions like "What would need to be true so that you can reach your goal?"
Communicate broader perspectives to students and inspire commitment to shift their viewpoints and find new possibilities for action. For example, by finding role models, and examples of people who have already achieved similar goals to the student's goals, you make it possible for them to see beyond their current situation.
Help students to see the different, interrelated factors that affect them and their behaviors (e.g., thoughts, emotions, body, background). Students mostly agree that they are in charge of their bodies and take responsibility for what they do, and don't do. It can be a revelation to them that they are also in charge of their emotions.
Express insights to the students in ways that are useful and meaningful for the student. You may well get inspiration for something insightful to say about the student's behaviour, thoughts, beliefs etc. You need to hold back the thoughts that mostly benefit you, that make you sound wise or clever; and release those that benefit the student.
Identify major strengths vs. major areas for learning and growth, and what is most important to address during coaching. You will find that there is often a wealth of areas to work with in a coaching session. This simply means that you choose the areas that are of the greatest benefit to the student. For guidance you can look to the coaching agreement that you have with the student's goals.
Ask the student to distinguish between trivial and significant issues, situational vs. recurring behaviors,when detecting a separation between what is being stated and what is being done. The question "What's really going on here?" may help you guide the student decide to tackle the bigger issues.
The ICF description of this skill includes "the ability to communicate effectively during the coaching sessions, and use language that has the greatest positive impact on the student"
Well, of course as a coach you do want to have the greatest positive impact, what else?
Here are a few tips based on the ICF description
Clearly state the coaching objectives, the meeting agenda, the purpose of techniques or exercises. This will ensure that you are both / all on the same page regarding what the session is about. You are being directive in this case, "We are going to draw on the whiteboard so that we can both see what you are talking about more clearly.". If you are a gentle and caring coach, this can be a stretch, and it's supportive to your client that you are more firm and directive during this part of the coaching. It's sometimes called "taking command".
Use language that appropriate and respectful.
Well, of course!
You need to keep your language non-sexist, non-racist, non-technical... If you notice that you have stepped over the line,... admit it, but don't apologise. "That was sexist, I heard what I said now." If your student catches you and tears you off a strip because you were sounding racist, for example, accept it, thank them for being direct, and get back to the job of coaching. "I hear what you are saying, it was a racist comment, you caught me and told me off (pause) now back to the coaching (pause)".
Be clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback. Usually shorter feedback is better than longer; also feedback that is not "carefully wrapped" in nice words, but rather delivered "straight" - with positive intent. You have a coaching agreement that allows you to be direct. The problem with wrapping feedback in nice words is that the feedback becomes distorted when the student unwaps it, distorted by their fears, values, self-beliefs... and more. You may feel that ou are protecting the student from hard truths... actually you are protecting yourself from their anticipated reaction. Remember that this is a coaching conversation, and the common rules of politeness do not apply.
Reframe and articulate. You can provide the language that the student needs to understand their situation from another perspective, so they can see what they want or are uncertain about. "I hear you say .... ", "The impression I get is ..."
Metaphors. One of the most powerful ways to communicate directly is to use metaphors and analogies that illustrate a point. For students there are many kinds of metaphors that will be useful. When in doubt I wonder what kind of animal can represent what we are talking about, or what kind of weather, or music... it depends on the inspiration I get from the person I am coaching.
The best metaphors come from the client's world. I frequently use driving as a metaphor, even though I don't drive a car. My clients are adults and driving is very much part of their lives.
You may choose to paint a verbal picture. Describe the image using words. This works well with students who learn through the auditory channel. Alternatively I may use dance or statues as metaphors, asking the student to show what it looks like physically. This works especially well with students who learn though their bodies.
The ICF describes the skill of Powerful Questioning as the ability to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the student.
This is what the teacher needs to pay attention to when coaching
Indications of a coaching conversation
Listening to a professional coach you will hear them ask a large number of questions. Indeed this is one indication that the conversation you are listening to has coaching intentions.
So where do all these coaching questions come from, and how will you think of the right questions to ask during the coaching session when you are the coach?
My skill in asking powerful questions is one that has developed over time, and has had several distinct phases. Initially I asked open-ended questions, ones that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. I made note of which open questions had a strong beneficial effect on my clients. The next phase saw me using with new clients the kind of open-ended questions that were powerful for previous clients. The last phase saw me move towards focusing on questions that are powerful for the client that I had in front of me.
So let's start there!
The aim of asking powerful questions is to reveal the information that is needed to get maximum benefit for the coaching relationship and the client. Basically that means being honest about what is going on. Immediately, without judgement, ask the question. Such as...
"How strongly will your attitude affect your chances of ... reaching your goal?"
You be aiming to evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action, so it's important to keep your own attitudes and opinions out of the tone of the question.
Often powerful questions will challenge the client's assumptions about what is happening, and you will do well to show respect for their view of the world; at the same time as you are questioning it.
Open vs Closed Questions
The reason coaches ask open-ended questions is that open questions create greater clarity, open up possibilities or new learning. Closed questions that can only be answered with yes, or no have the effect of snding the conversation.
Mostly you will ask questions that move the client towards what they desire, rather than questions that ask them to justify themselves or look backwards at past actions.
Early in the coaching relationship and if the difference between the coach and teacher roles is not made clear, students may well expect the coach to be looking for the "right" answer to their question. They may also expect the coach to have the answers as well as questions, and to give the answers when the student cannot answer for themselves. In that case you need to make your expectations as coach clearer to the student.
Powerful questions and the client's response
For me the only way to learn which open-ended questions worked as powerful questions was to take note of the clients' response. When the client was lost in thought, changed body language significantly, or reported after the coaching which questions had had the biggest effect.
The effect of powerful questions on the coach
When I saw that the client seemed to have been "hit by a bomb" by one of my questions, made a breakthrough in what was vitally important to them, dramatically changed the way they thought etc I felt hugely powerful, deeply rewarded and humbled.
There are many situations in school where a coaching approach can be used in the conversation. In these situations you might be seeking to change or correct the student's behaviour.
It is important to note that there are always several agendas (sets of goals). The student in question, their parents, their friendship group, the class, the teacher are a few of the people that have agendas
A step by step coaching approach that could be used
1 Make the agendas clear
2 Ask for mutual respect
3 Seek a new balance
4 Find new behaviour to support the new balance
5 Find resources
Making the agendas clear
How, you might ask, can you make the different agendas clear when there are just two people in the conversation, you the coach and the student
What's the student's agenda? Ask!
What's the class agenda? Guess!
What's the teacher agenda? If it's you, tell, or ask the other teacher
Challenging the student's behaviour
It's always better to allow students a couple fo chances to come up with their own new behaviours. A lot depends on the student's maturity, acceptance of responsibility and willingness to change their own behaviour
We see that you have this behaviour....
What benefits do you get out of that behaviour?
There are side effects on me, the teacher, the class ... the effects are ... and we don't want to have them
How can you get your benefits with less side effects?
The source of powerful questions
Recalling the questions at the start of this section "Where do all these questions come from, and how will you think of the right questions to ask during the coaching session when you are the coach?" What answer can I give?
The clue to where the quesions come from lies in your thinking; or rather not thinking.
"Listen with an open mind, and allowing the questions to form in your belly", sounds like mumbo jumbo until you have experienced it happening; and seen the effect the questions have on your client. It's hard to formulate a better description of how the question pops out of my mouth, having been only an instinctive buzz in my stomach. The question doesn't have time to go up to my head and be formulated, it just pops out. Well, that's how I want to describe it for now.
1 How do you know what the student is really talking about? What clues are there?
(It's in discrepancies between their words, tone of voice, body language, gestures ect)
2 How can you use what you hear so that it supports the student in their coaching process? What are the techniques that you can use?
Here is how the ICF defines Active Listening, adapted for teachers coaching students.
What would a coach be worth if they didn't listen? Listening is a coaching skill that can be forever developed to higher and ever higher levels.
Listening is good. What's better than just listening? It's called active listening and it is the ability to focus completely on what the student is saying, and is not saying. It is also the ability to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the student’s desires. This is often called third level listening, and there are further levels.
Using what you hear to support the student's self-expression will be of great service to them. Further, when you support the student's self-expression you will see them grow, become more mature, more responsible for who they are and what they are doing in the world.
As coach, you simply act as a mirror - except it's not light you are reflecting, it's another form of energy. The greatest service you can provide your student is to be as neutral as possible in your reflection. And it's hugely enjoyable. One of the curious aspects of coaching is that when it is done right, it is wonderfully rearding. Most teachers that I have spoken with agree that seeing students grow up is one of the greatest rewards for all their teaching efforts. With coaching these moments come more often, and more powerfully.
Here's the situation I want you to have in mind
Imagine that you are in the middle of a coaching session, somewhere the middle of the planned time with this student.
You hear, in the student's tone of voice, and read from their body language some indications of what the student is really talking about, their concerns, goals, values and beliefs about what is possible and what is not possible. It would not be easy to point out the actual details of how you know this, the impression came to you intuitively. And you choose to rely on your intuition and follow through using one of several techniques.
As coach the aim is to be a mirror for what the student is saying, so you can use any of the following techniques to reflect back to them about their goals, values and beliefs.
A) You can summarize, simply say what you heard in brief
B) You can paraphrase, say what's been said in slightly different words - without changing the meaning, or interpreting what's been said
C) You can reiterate, say exactly what the student said
The aim of this mirroring of what the student has said is to ensure clarity and understanding; their clarity and understanding, not yours.
The issue of Agendas
It is essential that early in the coaching, you identify and then keep to the student's agenda. When you actively listen you will hear what the student is really talking about. You will hear their concerns, goals, values and beliefs. This is the student's agenda and is the only one you shall work with when you are a coach.
Developing your skill in holding the student's agenda in focus is a challenge. This is a skill that will greatly increase the value of the coaching for the student. To this end I recommend that you, as coach, have a coach!
An easy way to do develop your skills is for three teachers to coach each other. You can avoid possible confidentiality conflicts through the use of written agreements and adhering to the Coaching Code of Ethics!
Not all the active listening skills belong to the coach, some belong to the student.
Some students will try to avoid being coached by telling stories. A skill that you can teach the student is to ask them to give the bottom line of any story they may want to tell you. It's rarely necessary for you as coach to hear, or understand the whole story, a bottom line version is enough to establish sufficient background. Explain that you don't need to hear the whole story and then say "Imagine that you have already told me everything you want to say... what comes next?"
Another skill that's useful is getting the student to vent or clear what they are bottling up. Use it when the student is bottled up or overflowing with emotions and needs to become a little emptier in order to get to a place where they can do something about it. Ask "What do you need to say in order to be ready for coaching?"
The ICF defines "Coaching Presence" as the ability to be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with the student using a coaching style that is open, flexible and confident.
Presence is about being there for your students. Really being there, not just your body in the room but all of you; your mind, your emotions and most importantly, your intuition.
You can call yourself present when you are dancing in the moment, allowing what you are feeling to influence the coaching process in a light and energetic way, and yet not being knocked over or in awe of what's going on. The coaching is a dance and you are an active partner in it.
What we are aiming for in Presence is a child-like openness for whatever wants to discovered, experimented with, changed. You will be exploring and uncovering things that only the student knows about themselves, at a deeper level than in ordinary conversations.
In order to develop your coaching presence you probably need to be more outside your head than usual, and more into your emotions than in an ordinary classroom situation. And you will be relying on your intuition to show you the way. Have you considered the balance between how you use your Intellect, Emotions and Intuition?
You will know that you are Present when the coaching has a number of lighter and humerous moments - not jokes that you recall and tell, but moments of recognition that come from seeing things in a new way. You and your students will both feel uplifted by the Presence that you bring to the coaching, and it is your confidence in the coaching process that makes change possible for your students.
On many occasions, when you are present, you really don't know what's going on, you don't know what's going to happen. You have no control. You aren't in control, but you are in charge. And that means you need to stand in this place of not knowing, in confidence, with your student and allow whatever change wants to happen to make itself known. At times like these, when the winds of uncertainty are blowing more strongly than usual, I find it useful to repeat to myself "Trust the Process" three or four times in my head. This repetition gives the process a little more time to have its effect, and keeps me from saying or doing anything that might upset the process. Sometimes nothing happens, at least not on the surface. Always, a lot has happened. You can consider yourself priviledged if you get to see changes during the coaching session.
Another aspect that you will notice when you are Present is that a lot of different possibilities open up, lots of ways of working with the student. As coach you get to choose which way to work. Just go with the flow and you can't be wrong. By trusting that your intuition has made the right choice, you will have a huge positive impact on the student. If however you make a logical choice - one that seems right in your head, you may risk having no positive impact at all.
You will notice that you are not present of you hear yourself telling the student things that come from your own experience and thoughts... just stop. It's OK to go there from time to time, and as you do this less, you will become more Present in the coaching and be of more value to your students.
Another sign that you are fully Present is that you are not drawn into the student's emotions when they react to their change process. You will simply stand there with them, eyes staring, tears flowing, voices hollering - oh and that's the student I am describing. You will have a neutral expression, with a touch of wonder, like a child who's just woken up a sleeping bear.
A situation that lends itself to developing Presence is having a meeting with angry parents, and perhaps their angry son or daughter too. Going into this situation head first, with your intellect, is likely to inflame their anger, result in a argument and leave you all exhausted after some time shouting at each other, and with probably little positive results. If you've been there, you'll know what I am talking about.
In order to get the greatest benefit for all concerned in such a situation you can ask yourself to be more Present, include your emotions and intuition in the meeting and that will automatically include their emotions and intuition in their meeting with you.
By using open questions to uncover what's really going on, and confidently standing in the storm of uncertainties and fears that they have brought with them, you stand a greater chance of bringing their process into view and enable them to deal more clearly with it. Repeating to yourself "trust the process" will help to keep you balanced in intellect, emotion and intuition; and will keep you from responding too quickly.
By being Present you will be able to access subtle clues in the spoken and non spoken communication that will help you name what's going on. This might include taking a bit of a risk when you name something that's likely to be uncomfortable for the parents and student to hear. There are ways to phrase yourself that are both confident and respectful, and avoid being accusative. We are focusing right now on being present rather than politeness. We will keep our focus on being spontaneous.
When you are Present you will notice that you find lots of ways for working together, so expect it, look for it, listen for it. If you consult your head at this time, you risk not being Present.
When you are Present you will notice that the conversation becomes lighter, humerous, so expect it, listen for it, look for it. If you consult your head at this time, you risk not being Present.
Here's a simple tool for developing your sense of Presence over a period of weeks and months.
At the end of the meeting / day / week ask yourself "How Present was I?" How much humour was there? Were there many solutions popping up? Was I spontaneous? How much did I trust the process? You can score yourself from 1-5 and expect that the scores will go up over time. Like any muscle Presence responds well to repetition.
I shall talk about establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client. Intimacy in this case describes the close collaboration that occurs in a coaching relationship.
The ICF describes the skill of creating trust and intimacy as the ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust
The kind of trust that coaching needs, requires that the teacher:
Tools for Building trust
What ways do can you think of that you can use to build trust between you and the students that you are coaching? Imagine that you are going to meet a student for their first coaching session. What will you pay attention to regarding building trust with this student?
There are mechanical ways to build trust. You can use your communication to physically match and mirror the student in a relaxed, not-too-obvious way.
Depending on how you are sitting or standing, you may choose to match = do the same, or mirror = do the mirror opposite. Both have the effect of building trust.
Mirroring and Matching
This mirroring and matching may come naturally to you and you may already know that you speak differently when talking to different students. This adaptation usually promotes good communication, and is felt in a cosy sensation of "trust" in your belly. Certainly when the communication is less than trusting, the sensation in your stomach is less than cosy.
The mirroring and matching needs to be done in a way that avoids catching the student's attention, and the changes will sometimes be lead by you, and sometimes be led by the student.
During this mirroring and matching, the turn-taking in the coaching conversation will still be 20% coach and 80% student.
There are three areas to consider when mirroring and matching
1) Vocal language
2) Body language
3) Communication Channels
Matching can include deliberately speaking in a similar tone of voice, at about the same pace and with similar intonation and pause patterns as the student.
Matching can include sitting or standing in a similar way to the student, moving as the student moves, almost as in a dance.
Another way to build trust is to communicate on the right "channel", by channel is meant Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic channels. Visual means communicating through the eyes, Auditory means through the ears and Kinesthetic means through the body.
Some people naturally pick up on channels. There are methodical ways to uncover which channel the student normally uses so that you can match and mirror more effectively.
Obviously a single answer is only an indication, and the student probably uses two, or perhaps all three channels to some extent. This point is that this activity will give you clues that help you guess better during the coaching process.
Here are some examples of how you can use channels
As coach when explaining, or when you ask the student to explain, use diagrams, symbols, charts, and arrangements of words on a page. Make use of different colors!
The coaching conversation is the perfect channel for them. If you want to deliver information you could read texts out loud for them rather than asking them to read the written text. Similarly prefer to get the student speaking rather than getting them to draw, or dance as you would with Visual and Kinesthetic communicators.
Make sure you use all of their senses, especially describing what they see, feel, smell, get them to act it out, dance, and use physical metaphors for example.
With Kinesthetic communicators you can make good use of role-playing challenging situations in your room before they meet them in the outside world.
Getting students unstuck
Sometimes students can get stuck in a coaching session. You can use your knowledge of the student's preferred communication channel to get them unstuck.
If you have noted that the student is Visual - change channel to Auditory (get them to speak, sing, blurt the first word that comes into their minds, shout, whisper...) or change channel to Kinesthetic, get them on their feet, make a physical metaphor, dance like a ... whatever it is that's blocking them)
This channel-change activity always produce results, it often gets them unstuck as they snap back to their preferred channel.
As you develop your repertoire of communication channel activities you will become better at connecting with and developing trust with the student AND be better able to move them forwards in their coaching process.
Intimacy - Avoiding being too intimate
1) What are the signs of a positive, constructive intimate relationship with the student?
There is a special "I trust you" look in the eyes of the coaching client who is about to cross an important threshhold into a richer experience of life.
2) What might happen if you are too intimate with your student?
The student may weep, shout abuse, throw a punch
The question I want to ask here is "How can you know in advance what the right level of intimacy is?"
The answer is, you can't know what's right. If you are doing a good job as a coach you are going to cross over from private to intimate at least once with each student. Otherwise - if you never cross the line, or if you are avoiding crossing the line - you may be playing safe, and that's no good at all for the student's coaching process. Crossing the line between private and intimate requires preparation.
You CAN design a way of dealing with being too intimate in advance of it happening.
The Coaching Agreement
The thing that really helps with issues around trust and intimacy is the Coaching Agreement.
The Coaching Agreement
As adults we have many agreements with other adults. We have agreements that describe the service we are using and explain the relationship between us. The agreements protect us, and ensure good service. Such agreements are especially important when it comes to private and intimate issues, and when working with young adults.
Teachers have agreements
Through their employment at a High School, teachers have agreements that describe their rights and expectations and responsibilities and authorities.
Dentist have agreements
That's why Dentists are allowed to dig around inside our mouths, we have an implicit agreement with them that it's OK to look in an otherwise private and intimate place.
Doctors have agreements.
That's why Doctors are allowed to look in places that we normally regard as private and intimate. They have given an Oath that promises their actions have good intentions.
Coaches have agreements
In the same way Coaches need to have a Coaching Agreement that allows them to dig around in intimate places and look at private things.
The Coaching Agreement, at 2 levels
The coaching agreement can be viewed from a macro and a micro level. By macro I mean a large overall partnership, covering at least the whole duration of the coaching partnership; and by micro I mean a partnership for the session, or part of a session.
At the Macro Level
Since the students mature during their time at the High School, it is useful to have a signed coaching agreement on paper, based on the one that your school provides. This agreement should be read and signed by the people concerned, such as administrators, teacher/coach, student and possibly parent(s) /guardian(s).
The agreement should include
The agreement should also include a description of
and relevant logistics should also be included, such as
There are a number of different situations where coaching can be carried out. Coaching can be carried out in public, in the classroom or the corridor; or in private. Coaching can be carried out at a predetermined time, or on the spur of the moment. Coaching can focus on one person, or a group. All of these situations require that a coaching agreement already be in place, otherwise it's not coaching.
At the Micro Level
At the start of each session there is an opportunity to define / refine / redefine the coaching agreement
Normally you remind each other of the existence of the coaching agreement that makes the relationship one of coach and coachee, rather than teacher and student. Often all that's required is a phrase like "Is it OK that I coach you for the next 5 minutes (pause)?"; or from the student "Would you coach me on my results?"
Coaching the Class
If you are speaking to a class, it is vital that you allow for the fact that some students might not be ready to be coached right now (even if you think they would benefit from coaching). Say "I am going to coach the whole class for the next 5 minutes about goals and results"... "if you are not ready for that please remain quiet so that the rest of the class can hear me.", or "You can answer in silence", or "Write down your answers for yourself"
Occasionally you might want to remind the class about confidentiality. Here's a way to do that. "Can we agree that everything we say in this room, stays in this room (pause)?.... does anyone disagree (pause)?". In the early day of a class's experience of coaching you might want to explain to them about the notion of confidentiality, and get them to discuss it; and the consequences of breaking it; and the benefits of keeping it.
So in summary
We need agreements to allow teachers, when working as coaches, to dig around in intimate places and look at private things. We make the agreement clear by putting it in writing and gaining credibility and support in the form of signatures. We make use of the agreement by bringing it up at the start of any coaching situation. A quick reminder of the agreement makes the coaching session stand out from ordinary conversations.
Keep the coaching sessions separate from other types of conversation. Take the time to make a break between session and conversation.
From my many visits to High Schools I have seen that increasing numbers of teachers are being asked to coach. Some clearer definitions of the similarities and differences between the roles of teacher and coach are asked for.
In this first blog, I shall look at the similarities between coaching and teaching.
The ICF description of coaching reads "Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires the client to maximize their personal and professional potential."
Moving the focus to teachers of teenaged students at High Schools, the definition of coaching might read "Coaching is partnering with students in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires the student to maximize their personal and academic potential."
High School teachers are professionals. Can they also be expected to act as professional coaches? I think so. According to the ICF, a professional relationship exists when there is a contract that defines the responsibilities of each of the people involved. That seems to be enough to also describe a High School teacher as also professionals when they coach, although it does not define how to coach.
A description of what a coach does can be read in the document "ICF Professional Core Competencies". This description is used as the foundation for certifying professional coaches, as well as the foundation for designing and accrediting coach training courses.
The ICF description of coaches' conduct reads, "Professional coaches aspire to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects positively upon the coaching profession; they are respectful of different approaches to coaching; and recognize that they are also bound by applicable laws and regulations.".
Something similar could be said to describe teachers too. "Professional teachers aspire to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects positively upon the teaching profession; they are respectful of different approaches to teaching; and recognize that they are also bound by applicable laws and regulations."
As a member of the ICF, and as a certified coach, an ICF Professional Coach also agrees to practice the ICF Professional Core Competencies and pledges accountability to the ICF Code of Ethics. What might those docuements look like for High School teachers?
Here are two questions about the developing role of "teacher as coach".
1) Informing yourself
What's the benefit to you and your school of having clearly defined coaching Ethics and Standards?
What might the dangers be to you if you didn't have clear definitions?
2) Informing others
Who needs to know that you have a Code of Ethics and Standards regarding Coaching at your School?
How are you going to communicate this fact?
The ICF Pledge of Ethics
"As an ICF Professional Coach, I acknowledge and agree to honor my ethical and legal obligations to my coaching clients and sponsors, colleagues, and to the public at large. I pledge to comply with the ICF Code of Ethics, and to practice these standards with those whom I coach."
"If I breach this Pledge of Ethics or any part of the ICF Code of Ethics, I agree that the ICF in its sole discretion may hold me accountable for so doing. I further agree that my accountability to the ICF for any breach may include sanctions, such as loss of my ICF membership and/or my ICF Credentials."
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I am a teacher, a business-owner, a public speaker, a coach and an author.